(d. c. 570)

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(d. c.570),

Irish nun. Apart from Brigid, Ita is probably the most famous woman saint of Ireland. Her Life was written centuries after her death. She is said to have been of royal origin, born near Waterford, and called Deirdre; later she migrated to Killeedy (Limerick) where she founded a small nunnery and lived for the rest of her life. Her spiritual life was like that of other Irish ascetics, with much prayer and fasting; in her case it is claimed that devotion to the indwelling Holy Trinity was her characteristic. An Irish lullaby for the Infant Jesus is also attributed to her. Further, although her own Life says nothing of this, she is called ‘foster-mother of the saints of Ireland’, especially of Brendan, although the chronology seems scarcely possible. He is supposed to have asked her what three things God specially loved, to which she answered: ‘True faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit, and open-handedness inspired by charity.’ It is probable that she educated some young boys who later became famous and that her nuns helped to treat the sick of the neighbourhood. Like other monastic figures of Ireland, she spent considerable time in complete solitude and was also much in demand for advice and help. There are church dedications and place-names which recall her both in her place of origin and around her monastery; she is also mentioned in Alcuin's poem on the Irish saints. Her cult is still alive today. Feast: 15 January.

Life in V.S.H., ii. 116–30; R. Flower, The Irish Tradition (1947), esp. p. 56; J. Ryan, Irish Monasticism (1931), pp. 138–40; The Irish Saints, pp. 196–9. Popular Life by I. N. Riain (1964).

Subjects: Christianity.

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